Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statement
that Turkish warships would escort the next Gaza-bound aid flotillas spared a row in Israel and across the world. The remarks were perceived as particularly aggressive, creating a basis for further escalation in the deteriorating relations between Israel
Now it seems the Turks are attempting to soften the statement, claiming that Erdogan's words were translated in a way that distorts his original intention.
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"Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorized to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza," Erdogan was quoted as saying this week. "From now on, we will not let these ships to be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla.
According to official sources in Turkey, reporters artificially combined two different remarks made by the Turkish prime minister, creating one sentence perceived as a threat of a military clash in high seas.
Erdogan. Remarks taken out of context? (Photo: Getty Images)
The new version, sent to the media from Erdogan's office, attempts to clarify the statement.
"We stressed the principle that we will ensure the safe movement of Gaza's aid vessel," said a senior Turkish government source. "The eastern Mediterranean Sea is not Israel's private playground. As long as it avoids intervening in the freedom of movement in the region, we won't send any warships to escort the vessels."
The source dismissed the published quotes as a bad translation which failed to understand Erdogan's intention. "It appeared as if we were offering to have warships escort every aid vessel. This is not true. Turkey will defend the rights of its citizens only when Israel chooses to intervene and prevent free movement in international waters."
The diplomatic relations between Ankara and Jerusalem reached a new low last weekend, after Israel refused to apologize for the May 31, 2010 deadly IDF raid on a Gaza-Bound flotilla.
In response, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador
and senior diplomats and said it would increase its Navy's activity in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and suspended all military trade ties
between the two countries.